Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Collection Report Jan 16-17, 2011

January 16, 2012. 11:35AM, Bay View beach, Saco, Maine, just after high-tide. Winter finally arrived, about two months late for this part of the world. And the previous week had seen some good stormy weather to boot. At about 20 degrees F, "layering" was the word of the day.
On the foreshore, the snow was gone, but a sheet of ice held fresh wrackline -- with its tag-alongs -- in its grip.
This marks the first of a remarkable few weeks at the beach. Not necessarily for the flotsam washed up, but for how shorelines work in winter. Take a look at this pebbly wasteland at the edge of the low-tide terrace.
It turns out, this isn't the usual rocky substrate, revealed by a week of erosion. It's the opposite. Under these pebbles the old sand was one big block of ice, locked firmly in place by winter's descent. All of this rocky debris was hurled violently on top of the old sand layer. By the kind of churning sea that was able to cast offshore oddities like this high up the slope.
Tossed it back in, maybe still alive
Thousands of tube-worm casts
amid the rock & shell
The sea made a bed of offshore flotsam and left it high & dry once the tide receded. I even found a pebble that was completely encrusted with barnacles. These rocks aren't local substrate; they're seafloor rocks (and even one oyster shell -- my first at Bayview) from out beyond the tide line that the previous week's weather hurled up.

Proof that when you freeze a shoreline, and then throw in a nice churning storm in the mix, you've very much changed the game. Look also at how the ocean left the signature of her wave energy in the pebbles.
What an amazing world.

Anyway, for this day, the ice along the wrack sealed much of the plastic. I got what I could, then returned at low tide on the 17th to collect what had thawed.

So, for Zone N:
66 finds:
  • Building materials: 16 (10 brick, 2 asphalt, 4 tile)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 3
  • Fishing misc.: 14 (11 lobster trap vinyl coating scraps, 1 trap scrap, 2 bumpers)
  • Food-related plastics: 1 (bottle cap o-ring)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 24 (bottlecap, 23 seaglass!)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 5 (2 scraps >1", 3 scraps <1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 0
  • Paper/wood: 3 (napkin scraps)
  • Misc./unique: 0
Almost everything that came up -- and stayed up -- was heavy or dense or friction-y. Tile, brick, sharp snaggy shards of lobster trap vinyl. Light, blowy plastics were limited to 3 tiny flecks of foam that got tangled into the wrack. And look at this, 23 sea glass, that's a record.
Just a wild week that brought up stuff from very unusual places on the seabed.

Here's Zone S:
45 finds:
  • Building materials: 9 (7 brick, 1 asphalt, 1 tile)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 4
  • Fishing misc.: 7 (4 trap vinyl coatings, 1 bumper, 2 claw bands)
  • Food-related plastics: 2 (bottlecap o-rings)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 11 (1 can scrap, 1 pulltab, 2 bottlecaps, 7 seaglass)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 6 (3 scraps <1", tieback, rubberband, carabiner?)
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 1
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Misc./unique: 5 (leather sole, leather punchout, 2 rag scraps, buried fencing)
The same story here as Zone N. Heavy stuff, weird stuff. Seafloor stuff. Including this bizarre frozen arachnid...
...which turned out to be mangled chainlink fencing.

So a week not notable for how much washed in, but for what it was and where it came from. The sudden onset of winter froze the beach in place. And that seems to have set in motion many weeks of odd behavior -- which I've been able to catalog.

Stay tuned!


  1. I saw this on facebook and it really upsets me!!! Check it out...Flying Lanterns in Portland. A mob of polluters. Ugh!Tthere is still time to educate them!
    I live on an island in RI and I always bring a bag of trash up off the beach when I go for a walk. Love what you are doing for Maine (my favorite place to vacation). Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks much for the link! I put my two cents in there about the idea. There are so many things people think up that seem -awesome-, for about 30 seconds, until you start looking at them a little closer.

    Hey, down in your part of RI have you encountered any of those little circular plastic disks released by the sewage treatment plant in NH back last March? They still wash up here, looking good as new.